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News | Parliament Seeks to Question Ahmadinejad amid Election Runup

by MUHAMMAD SAHIMI in Los Angeles

07 Jan 2012 22:40Comments

Press Roundup provides a selected summary of news from the Farsi and Arabic press and excerpts where the source is in English. Tehran Bureau has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy. Any views expressed are the authors' own. Please refer to the Media Guide to help put the stories in perspective. You can follow breaking news stories on our Twitter feed.

Iran Standard Time (IRST), GMT+3:30

MajlesVerticalFars.jpg10:40 p.m., 17 Dey/January 7 After many months of struggle between a group of Majles deputies who have wanted to summon Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for questioning and the parliamentary leadership, which has prevented the move, the president has finally been called to appear before the Majles -- at least, technically. Alaeddin Boroujerdi, chairman of the parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, said that Ahmadinejad has been asked to participate in a meeting of the commission on Tuesday to respond to deputies' questions concerning two unspecified matters. He added, however, that the president can send a representative to the meeting, instead of participating in it himself. Cleric Hassan Ebrahimi said that the two issues deputies want to discuss are Ahmadinejad's attempts to remove Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi from office, and his firing of former Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki while Mottaki was visiting Senegal in 2010.

Twenty-four Majles deputies will not run again

The deadline to enroll with the Interior Ministry to run in the upcoming Majles elections, to be held on March 3, has expired. Of the current 290 deputies, at least 24 -- most of them reformists -- have decided not to run again. The best known of the reformists who will not seek reelection is Jamshid Ansari, who represents Zanjan, about 150 miles northwest of Tehran. Among the few principlist deputies who will not run again, the most important are Mousa Ghorbani, who represents Ghaenat in South Khorasan province; Mohammad Taghi Rahbar, the reactionary cleric who represents Isfahan; and cleric Seyyed Reza Akrami, who represents the greater Tehran area.

Karroubi's party calls for boycott of Majles vote

Esmail Gerami Moghaddam, spokesman for the Etemad-e Melli (National Trust), the political party founded by Mehdi Karroubi, announced the party's official position regarding the upcoming Majles elections. He declared that because senior officials of the party have clearly stated that they will not participate in the elections, Etemad-e Melli will not nominate anyone. Gerami Moghaddam also criticized the attempts of some conservatives to style themselves as reformists and to speak on behalf of all the true reformists.

Mesbah Yazdi, a democrat?

Bibak News, the website published by the reactionary cleric Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi, posted a remarkable article which claims that Imam Ali, the Shiites' first Imam and the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet, was put in power by people's vote. Mesbah Yazdi has always said that the Imams and Faghihs (such as Khamenei and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini) were selected by God, and the people only "discovered" the selection. He has also previously stated that elections are "décor" for an Islamic government, since he believes that the regime gets its legitimacy from God, not the people. According to the article, "Thus, as you can see, Islam has the highest respect for people's votes."

Another Bibak News article condemned "making revelations about Muslim politicians," implicitly opposing the attacks by Ahmadinejad and his supporters on Rafsanjani. It appears that the articles represent a new campaign tactic by Mesbah Yazdi and his supporters. Mesbah Yazdi is the leader of the Jebheh Paaydaari Enghelab-e Eslami (JPEE, or Durable Front of the Islamic Revolution), which supports Ahmadinejad. The JPEE is concerned that its candidates may be disqualified by the Guardian Council, which has vetting power over candidates for all important elections and which supports Khamenei in his power struggle with Ahmadinejad. Five clerical students of Mesbah Yazdi -- Morteza Agha Tehrani, Mohammad Naser Saghaye Biria, Mamoud Nabavian, and Hossein Jalali -- intend to run.

Rahim Mashaei's 96 foreign trips

Majles deputy Ahmad Tavakoli said that parliament may question Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi about trips that Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, Ahmadinejad's chief of staff and close confidant, has taken abroad over the past several years. According to Tavakoli, Rahim Mashaei has made 96 trips to foreign countries, most of them as the head of the Organization of Cultural Heritage and Tourism. The deputy asked, "Where did he go, why did he go, and why were the trips necessary?" Tavakoli, a prominent critic of the president, claimed that during one of the trips Rahim Mashaei also met with a former Israeli ambassador to an unnamed country.

Rafsanjani and Ahmadinejad

Raha Press, one of the seven new websites that support Ahmadinejad, claimed that Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani is trying to "finish off" Ahmadinejad. It claimed that Rafsanjani, Majles Deputy Speaker Mohammad Reza Bahonar, and several other conservatives intend to pressure Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to "topple the tenth administration [after the 1979 Revolution]." According to the website, "Some high-ranking officials of several political parties have concluded that Khamenei's silence about the 'perverted group' [the hardliners' epithet for Mashaei and his inner circle] will not last and, therefore" -- here the site employs an extended soccer metaphor -- "they should 'score the golden goal' [getting rid of the president] before 'extra time' arrives, because Bahonar has said that Khamenei's silence about the 'perverted group' is shaky and he may support the leader of the 'perverted group' after 90 minutes." Raha Press has claimed that Bahonar made the statement after meeting with Rafsanjani. The speculation is based on the sudden posting of a letter that Rafsanjani wrote to Khamenei a few days before the June 2009 presidential election in which he warned Khamenei about the consequences of Ahmadinejad's "reelection." The letter was posted on the website that reflects Rafsanjani's views, which was recently blocked.

Ahmadinejad ignores Khamenei's orders

Abbas Salimi Namin, head of the Center for Compilation and Study of Iran's History, said that Ahmadinejad has been ignoring Khamenei's orders to participate in the meetings of the Expediency Discernment Council, headed by Rafsanjani. Speaking to a group of pro-Khamenei university students, Salimi Namin said, "The Leader has emphasized many times to Ahmadinejad that he must participate in the meetings of the council, but he ignores them." He added that, "Ahmadinejad wants to polarize the society, which is against the Leader's wishes."

Some European countries want to postpone Iran oil embargo

Dr. Mehrdad Emadi, an economic adviser to the European Union, said that several European countries have requested that the union postpone the implementation of the planned embargo of Iranian oil. Some countries, such as Greece, receive oil from Iran at a discounted price and have requested the union make up for the higher costs they will have to bear. At the same time, the E.U. needs to learn whether Saudi Arabia will be able to compensate for the cutoff of Iranian oil by increasing its own oil production. He added that a postponement of as many as six months has been requested.

Iran will not stop uranium enrichment

In a conversation with Xinhua, the Chinese news agency, Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said that Iran will never stop uranium enrichment. "Our nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, and is our national right," he added, emphasizing that in the next round of negotiations that may soon take place between Iran and the 5+1 group -- the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany -- "Iran will not say anything about setting aside its peaceful nuclear program."

Referring to the U.S. spy drone that was recently captured by Iran, Mehmanparast said, "The United States is well aware that the number of its spying aircrafts that our security and defense forces have controlled is more than one, and we will decide at the appropriate time to show them in public." He also claimed that the United States is employing human spies to gather intelligence on Iran as well. Mehmanparast denied that there is any direct link between the new round of sanctions that have been imposed on Iran by the United States and its European allies and the wide fluctuations in the rate of exchange between the Iranian rial and major Western currencies including the U.S. dollar. He observed that the new U.S. sanctions have not even been imposed yet and will take several months to be implemented.

Iran "not concerned" about sanctions

Foreign Minister Salehi said that Iran is not concerned about the new sanctions imposed by the United States and its European allies. Speaking at a news conference with his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu who is visiting Tehran, Salehi said, "The sanctions will have no effect. Given the experience of the Islamic Republic of Iran with sanctions over the past 32 years, we are ready to counter such economic enmities and are not concerned about them. The necessary plans [to counter the sanctions] have been made. Just as we have weathered such difficulties over the past 32 years, we will do so again." He reiterated that Iran is prepared to negotiate with the 5+1 group, and said that, in a recent conference in Bonn, he had talked to Catherine Ashton, the European Union high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, about resuming the negotiations.

West wages "economic war" on Iran

Oil Minister Rostam Ghasemi said that Iran is in an "economic war" with the West. Visiting Kharg Island, where Iran's largest oil terminal is located, Ghasemi said, "Given the vital role of Kharg Island in Iran's economy, the island is the main base and at the forefront of the national economy and the staff working at Kharg are like the soldiers [at the front]." Ghasemi urged the quick completion of several projects on the island, including new terminals and a liquefied natural gas facility, and emphasized that there is no problem in providing the necessary funds for the projects, as they have the highest priority.

Ahmadinejad promoted to associate professor

Before he was elected president in 2005, Ahmadinejad was an assistant professor in the Civil Engineering Department at Iran University of Science and Technology, where he received his degrees. Despite the fact that over the last seven years he has been too busy to be really involved at IUST, he was recently promoted by the university to associate professor. This has provoked protests by students and some faculty members who say that he has not been active in research for many years, a main criterion for promotion. In 2009, Kamran Daneshjoo, Ahmadinejad's minister of science, research, and technology, who was an assistant professor at IUST, was promoted to full professor (skipping over the intermediate position of associate professor), even though he has similarly not been active at the university for four years, due to his work at the Interior Ministry and as governor-general of Tehran province.

Ahmadinejad visits Intelligence Ministry

Nine months after he forced Intelligence Minister Moslehi out of office, only to see him reinstated by Khamenei, Ahmadinejad visited the Intelligence Ministry headquarters, where he met with Moslehi and some staff members. According to the reports, Ahmadinejad never mentioned last year's episode, but talked about what the ministry should do, including "being ahead of the curve when it comes to the development's in the region," and "having a world view" of the developments.

Center Bank governor threatens to resign

After being subjected to strong criticism in the Majles over the dramatic increase in the rate of exchange between the rial and U.S. dollar, Central Bank Governor Mahmoud Bahmani has apparently threatened to resign. He has reportedly said that he will stay in his job only if all the related governmental organs work with him to control the chaotic currency market and he is given complete freedom in his job.

U.S. warns Latin American countries about Iran

Next week, Ahmadinejad will visit Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba, and Ecuador. U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that the trips indicate that Iran is desperate for friends: "As the regime feels increasing pressure, it is desperate for friends and flailing around in interesting places to find new friends. We are making absolutely clear to countries around the world that now is not the time to be deepening ties, not security ties, not economic ties, with Iran." The countries Ahmadinejad plans to visit next week and the rest of the international community must make it clear to Iran that it has a "choice," Nuland said. "It can remain in an international isolation, or it can comply with its obligations and start cooperating and rejoin the community of nations."

List of 101 people secretly executed

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has published a list of the names of 101 people who it says were executed secretly in Vakil Abad Prison, near the northeastern city of Mashhad. The Campaign called on the Majles and judiciary to immediately institute a moratorium on executions and to move swiftly to abolish the death penalty. "Unfortunately, many of these executions happen behind closed doors, without the involvement of lawyers or awareness of the victim's family, and without access to a fair trial," said Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Shirin Ebadi. She added, "The Iranian judiciary and government know that the death penalty is not a suitable solution for fighting crime, particularly drug-related crimes. The basic question is this: why does the Iranian government use this type of punishment with such enthusiasm? The issue is that these executions only create fear and intimidation and serve only a political purpose. All of the statistics show that while the number of executions have increased the number of drug-related crimes have not decreased at all." The campaign's list counter judiciary chief Sadegh Amoli Larijani's statement of December 21: "I categorically deny any secret mass executions.... All executions are announced to my office...if anyone has information about executions anywhere that have been secret and without families' knowledge, let us know and we will investigate it."

Beating of two political prisoners

Reports indicate that journalist Mehdi Mahmoudian, who was one of the first to report on the crimes committed in the Kahrizak detention center in the aftermath of the June 2009 presidential election, has been transferred to Ward 2-A of Evin Prison, which is controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and been beaten badly. Mahmoudian, who suffers from heart disease, is a member of the Islamic Iran Participation Front, the country's largest reformist party, which has been outlawed by the hardliners. He had been incarcerated in Gohar Dasht Prison in Karaj, west of Tehran. At least four young demonstrators were killed in Kahrizak, and dozens more were tortured. Mahmoudian, who was arrested in September 2009, wrote a letter to Khamenei from prison in which he detailed what had happened in Kahrizak.

Another political prisoner, human rights advocate Ali Ajami, who is incarcerated in Rajaei Shahr Prison near Karaj, was slapped by a security guard so severely that his ear was wounded and he had to be transferred to the prison's medical center.

Copyright © 2012 Tehran Bureau

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